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You Are Here: Home - Newsletters - "Organized For A Living" - Article

     Distill Your Life: Downsizing as Adventure

The prospect of downsizing and preparing to settle into a new community can be both exciting and daunting. It can be exciting as a threshold into a new sense of security and freedom and also daunting as the accumulation of decades must be addressed and evaluated.

As we approach this transition it is important to realize that there are positive ways to prepare for and manage downsizing. Long before making decisions about what to keep we can begin to assess our belongings in a relaxed and less pressured way.

The key here is to first reduce clutter. Anything we can simply get rid of should be handled first, before making the harder decisions about gifts for people, things we want to sell, store or keep. The basic steps of organizing can be used to break this into manageable projects.
The Preparation:

  • • Define a Reasonable Scope: a dresser or a closet, not an entire room.
  • • Schedule a time: Don’t wait for the right moment it won’t happen!
  • • Decide how much time and energy you have. Try an hour just to start.
  • • Set up Out Containers: Donate, Recycle, Sell, Trash….
The Process:

  • • Sort things into broad categories…..without making decisions.
  • • Purge each category, putting things into Out containers.
  • • Contain what stays in efficient ways that match how you think and function.
  • • Maintain: Use your new systems.change things if they don’t work.

By de-cluttering first you only have to face things you’ll keep or pass on to others.

It’s very important to realize that everything will go to another person, whether you gift them, donate or sell! It is simply impossible to gift everything we accumulate. It can be very hard to accept the fact that our treasures may not be meaningful to family members. Everyone will approach this differently; here are some ways to start.

First separate things that you have in mind for a particular person, and ask if they want them. If Yes, give it to them right away. If not, you need to move on. Try to avoid spending a lot of time asking a series of people, some of whom won’t respond in a timely manner or be willing to take it.

Instead group items for family members to select from. It is important to tell everyone that this opportunity has a time frame and that after a certain date these things will be donated or sold. Then stick to it! Only if you know there is contested item should you proceed to ask the next person.

This liberates you from managing multiple objects and people. Once you know that people want the special things you intend for them, try to consider that the rest will go to whoever cares enough to contact you and take them!

Once the time is passed, dispose of anything not being kept.
Donate or Sell

The easiest way is to donate, either to an organization that collects, or by delivering things yourself.

Selling possessions can be time consuming. Consider hiring a company to either run an estate sale or to sell things for you.
Call In An Expert

Remember that family members often have a hard time helping with the process of downsizing. This might also be time to call in an expert.

The job of a professional organizer should go beyond the objects to address the deep emotional connections each client has to their possessions. Their calm, detached, yet understanding support can often make letting go of items less stressful.

A gentle and non judgmental approach supports you to make healthy changes, and learn ways to organize both your spaces and time.
Paper and Electronic Information

Paper and electronic information is another area where many people have trouble. There are simple, effective ways to process the huge volume of paper we all have, and systems to keep what really matters and find it again when it’s needed.

The goal is to make this transition one in which you distill the treasures and create a space that reflects your lifetime of experience in a powerful and supportive way.


Rebecca Ross and her company, The Composed Domain have been serving people in the greater Puget Sound area since 2000. She has been featured on radio, written for Seattle Woman Magazine and is an organizer on 2 episodes of The Learning Channels show; Hoarding: Buried Alive. Speaking and teaching experience includes classes on Clutter Management and Personal Organizing at North Seattle Community College, Edmonds ArtsNow Program, Bellevue College, and support groups for ADD Resources. A previous 20 year career as a registered architect has equipped her to help individual and corporate clients with spatial decisions and design choices. The Composed Domain offers general organizing, downsizing, paper and time management, and assistance with hoarding issues. For other articles and resources please see www.composedomain.com/blog

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